It took almost a month for the culture shock to set in once I arrived in Milan. During my first few days in Italy I didn’t want to be anywhere else and, quite frankly, I didn’t miss being back at GW.
But as I discovered the local love for bureaucracy, I found that my new home wasn’t as perfect as I thought. For any procedure in Italy, from buying a student Metro card to filing a permit of stay document, endless paperwork and time are required to carry out the simplest of tasks.
Back in D.C., I bought my SmarTrip card at the first Metro station I found. To procure the Italian equivalent, I had to stand in line for almost 2 hours, fill out a form that asked me the same information twice, go to another place to take my picture and finally the last but certainly not easiest step – deal with the representative who would actually issue my card, whose temper only worsened whenever I didn’t understand what she was asking me in Italian.
The hassle didn’t end there. Once it was my turn to file my request for this student card, I had to show an official letter of enrollment from my University, along with my passport. When all was filed and done I thought I could then jump on any bus, train or tram with my newly acquired Metro card, but of course I was wrong. It turns out I had to wait until the first day of the next month until I could actually start using it.
When talking with the locals about this aspect of their culture, they accept the fact that this is just how Italy works. They just love making people go into one office to make a payment, then into another office to get an approved signature, and then back to the initial office in order to fill out various forms asking for all types of personal and irrelevant information.
I don’t completely despise these tedious and oftentimes stressful experiences that come my way. I’ve been through major culture shocks before and I have always learned to be a better person because of them. Perhaps I’ll come out a more patient individual due to all this waiting I have to do in order to get anything done.